Continuing the 3-month content release schedule players have been enjoying for years, the Path of Exile Metamorph League launched on December 13, 2019. It’s a boss-building mechanic which also added item Catalysts, Monster Parts, new Skills and Unique items. Metamorph also a number of skill and Ascendancy adjustments. However, the most impactful change really was the new Conquerors of the Atlas system, which redefined how players engage in end-game mapping and boss spawning.
Links to more than 20 guides for some of the strongest builds in the game can be found below.
Below is a quick snapshot of the buffs, nerfs and other adjustments this league.
BUFFED: Arc (Chain range increased 40%), Soulrend (50% higher duration). LMP does more damage, Chill and Shock now have more impact. SRS has improved targeting. NERFED: Orb of Storms, Lightning Spire Trap, Onslaught, Smoke Mine and Stormblast Mine have been nerfed (while leveling). Mirage Archer and Point Blank have been nerfed. Minion Movement Speed (Mindless Aggression is now 10%, Ravenous Horde Speed Halved), Feeding Frenzy (10% less damage), Zombies (Slam less damage and often, Base damage reduced 25%) and obtaining a 3rd spectre have been nerfed. Icicle mine damage has been hit very hard. MORE: Monsters have higher resistances and armor (take less physical damage). Unique monster life increased 10%. Bosses enhanced with more life, skills/attacks.
The biggest mistake GGG made with the launch of Metamorph was requiring players to manually pick up monster parts, but they fixed this roughly a week into the league and changed it so the game would automatically collect the parts as the monsters were slain. This made the Metamorph Mechanic a lot more fun and enjoyable (focusing on the actual boss rather than picking up the pieces). The new Atlas Boss fights also had a number of bugs, many of which have been fixed, however there are still some outstanding issues (crashes and other problems tied to how difficult it is to get the bosses to spawn).
While last league (Blight) was all about Summoners, this league is still a Summoner League because GGG did not nerf Skeletons, which is now the number one skill in the game across the board. Zombies, Spectres and SRS are still quite powerful, just not as much as they were last league. Even though we still see Necromancers dominating the leaderboards, we have a lot more diversity in builds this league.
Numerous new skills were introduced with Metamorph (with a focus on bow skills), but nearly all of them fall short in play and support, with the exception of the new Awakened support gems (which are awesome and insanely expensive). The sad reality is collectively, less than 1% of players are using the new skills (such as Galvanic Arrow, Siege Ballista, etc.). They just don’t perform well enough with the Metamorph bossing mechanic.
Catalysts allow players to add quality to jewelry, with a focus on specific stats; however, I don’t see players embracing this new feature nearly as much as they did with last league’s Anointment system.
Metamorph is all about killing bosses, which made numerous speed farming builds nearly unusable for players that want to kill metamorphs at the end of a map; and the reward for killing high level metas is very, very good. For this reason, it’s important for players to have builds that can not only map well, but kill and survive the impressive variation of mechanics and dangers each dynamically created metamorph presents. The complete 3.9 patch notes can be found here.
In the end, Metamorph is a fun and very challenging league.
While Skeletons, Zombies and Spectres are dominating, there is a lot more variation in builds this league, which is a good thing. I’ve been playing Metamorph since it released, and so far have taken the below builds to end-game:
Skeleton Necromancer (League starter)
Siege Ballista Hierophant
Freezing Pulse Totems Hierophant
Arc Mines Sabetour
Bleed Split Arrow/Puncture Gladiator
Toxic Rain/Caustic Arrow Trickster
Blade Vortex Poison Assassin
Storm Brand Inquisitor
Bleed Split Arrow/Puncture Champion
Physical Dual Wield Cyclone Champion
Relative to this overview, I want to acknowledge how important play style is. Some people hate totems while others only play totem builds. Some like Melee while others love bow builds. The diversity of PoE is one of its greatest features, but also one of the most complex aspects of the game. While a build may be listed as “best” or “top”, some players may disagree because of the style(s) they prefer – but one thing is assured – the builds listed herein are all rock solid and viable for their represented roles. There are other more powerful builds, but they generally are much more complex, expensive, require respecing, and specific uniques — but the reality is most of these builds don’t provide enough of an advantage to the core requirements to outperform the below recommendations.
The below list was created based on a combination of my personal experience with the builds, the experience and recommendations of my friends and colleagues in PoE, comments and feedback from players in Reddit and the PoE forums, builds run by active PoE streamers taken to end-game, and cross-comparing the top leaderboard builds.
Before we begin, Path of Building is a very important tool to have when following a build guide since many of them share PoB links. Additionally, make sure you have a good loot filter. I personally recommend NeverSink’s Loot Filter.
Getting to maps and farming while surviving and having the ability to do all end-game content are key requirements for each of the recommended builds. This guide does not include ultra expensive builds for players who have accumulated a large amount of currency. This overview is perfect for new players, late league starters, or those who just want to try another build that will work for end-game and is fun.
The Leaderboard and Top Builds
Before I present the list, I want to say something very important: just because it’s on the top list doesn’t mean it’s a “best build”. Many (if not most) of the top players run builds that are designed solely to push 100 and nothing more (farming specific maps and pulling in a minimum XP/h amount); however many of these builds are capable of doing all content (Shaper & Uber Elder), and delving deep. People on the top list are hardcore (play style not HC mode), experienced, and pushing 100 (while also delving) is an art all of its own that generally has no application to the average player – but we can still learn from these players and builds. I also want to elaborate on how I interpreted the top build from the leaderboards. These characters can be found on poe.ninja builds. There are three core categories to consider: Softcore, Hardcore and SSF (and variations of each). Keep in mind those who are 95+ and do not play SSF often group with others (including aura bots), which includes sharing items and maps. This augmentation can misrepresent the viability of an end-game build and its capability to run without a party and reach 100 as quickly as it has. This means SSF is the best indicator of a build’s capability to progress without aura bots and party support. SSF players that push 95+ are a special breed of dedicated folks who usually put 8-12+ hours of game time in each day. These are not average players; but average players can learn from them.
Below are the statistics pulled from the poe.ninja builds top characters in each league subsection. Note many profiles are set to private, so this data is only based on public profiles that have their skills shared with the community. The below list is in order of popularity and use.
As we can see, Skeletons, Zombies and Spectres are king this league, with Cyclone mainly being used with CwC (Cospri’s) Ice Nova builds. Vortex and Arc are nearly tied due to their enhanced effect from the buffs to cold and shock mechanics. Mines are the second most popular build with a focus on Arc and Pyroclast (which can 1-shot most Metamorphs up to T15). Chaos skills such as Essence Drain, Toxic Rain and Caustic Arrow are also very popular this league due to their DoT performance, allowing the player to run around and dodge truly dangerous metamorphs. Note Cremation is also growing in popularity due to its DoT and screen-clearing capabilities (and it’s a lot of fun to play).
Once again, Necromancers dominate the game with Saboteur’s firmly holding the second place. Once we get into the third ascendancy, things begin to spread out (which is good), supporting a lot of variation in builds.
The follow-up most used skills for Softcore are:
Herald of Agony
The follow-up most used skills for Hardcore are:
Herald of Agony
When it comes to Delving in Softcore, once again, Scourge Arrow Raider is king (overall) with an achieved depth of more than 1,500. However, an Ice Shot Barrage player is currently leading the way with a depth of 1876.
Looking at Delving in Hardcore, it appears players have decided to forego pushing any deep numbers as melee builds are only at 388/450 (Cyclone/HoAG Jugg, Stafford’s Bleed Lacerate).
My Favorite Builds from 3.9 Metamorph
Before I dive into the Top build list from the statics, I wanted to share my favorite builds from Metamorph so far.
The strongest build I played this league was Steelmage’s Cyclone CwC Skeleton Zombie Necromancer. It simply destroys everything in the game (including Metamorphs) and is both SSF and HC viable. It’s tanky as all getgo, does a ton of damage with basic gear and delves very well. For me, it’s been the best all around build in the game, and reached level 100 in HCSSF, including killing Awakener 8. Here’s a link to SteelMage’s PoB with notes and multiple leveling trees. The second strongest summoner build I played was Viperesque’s Skeleton Necromancer. Here’s a link to viperesque’s build.
However the most “fun” build I’ve played so far this league is the Split Arrow/Puncture Bleed Bow Gladiator. It’s very strong, melts metamorphs as they try to run to you, and can do all content. I created a PoB based on Mathil’s build; details and a breakdown of skill progression are found in the Notes.
Second to the above Bleed Bow build, the Toxic Rain/Caustic Arrow Trickster hybrid is quite impressive and fun. It clears faster than the SA/Puncture build, but bossing is a bit tougher because you can’t hit the metamorph when it’s off-screen with your TR. Here’s a link to the PoB. Thanks to AudioMan, who was one of the firstto reach level 100 with this awesome build. Details on progression can be found in the Notes section.
I also thoroughly enjoyed the Cremation Necromancer, and it’s very powerful. Here’s a PoB based on Pafi’s build (the first L100 Cremation build this league). The Cremation Chieftain version is quickly growing as the strongest variation in SSF because of its health and regen; I tried it out and it does more damage and is tankier than the necro version, but really requires a Sire of Shards to shine – however the Chieftain is tedious to level since it doesn’t get any damage enhancement skills until the late 20’s or cremation until Library. Here’s a PoB for the Cremation Chieftain complete with a guide in the Notes section.
I really did enjoy SRS this league, and it’s very good at melting bosses and mapping, the only downside is it’s terrible at delving, but boy does it melt the Metamorphs, and it maps faster than Skeletons. So if you don’t care about delving, I’d choose SRS over Skeletons. In my opinion, it’s more fun, too. While angry_roleplayer wrote a great SRS guide, I personally prefer the modified PoB version of Brittleknee’s, which uses Zombies as Meat Shields (check the Notes section).
Top 3.9 Metamorph Builds List
As mentioned, the below list is based upon the Statistics pulled from poe.ninja; not just normal mode, but hardcore as well (which indicates fantastic survival). I will include links to what I consider to be the best build guides, many of which I have used myself.
There are a number of very solid Minion builds capable of doing all game content. While most use a mixture of minions, each build focuses on a different minion type as the primary damage source.
Octavian’s Toxic Rain Miner is awesome as well (I ran it last league, and it was his league starter for Metamorph). Here’s a link to his video build guide.
Vortex Occultist is very popular this league because of its survival, cold, and DoT damage (which makes it solid for bossing). It’s also one of the best delvers. However, being CI (Chaos Inoculation) makes it more complex than most builds (not recommended for new players). Ghazzy wrote a solid build guide for those who want to try this build out. There is also a Vortex Trickster version (here’s a build guide link from Gryphenprey), which I played last league and can vouch for being solid and also new player friendly. If somebody wants to do their first Vortex build, I recommend first making a Trickster, then trying an Occultist.
Toxic Rain and Caustic Arrow are also both very popular (due to their DoT and run mechanics). I believe the best version is the TR/CA hybrid, based on TheAudioMan’s build (the first to reach 100 with these skills).